Selma to host two ceremonies honoring late civil rights chief F.D. Reese

Six days before the first FD Reese day, the city of Selma will hold two ceremonies in honor of the late civil rights leader.

Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Reese was born in Selma in 1929. He was an educator, minister, and civil rights activist, and worked with organizers to direct suffrage efforts in Selma. This work laid the foundation for the “Bloody Sunday” Marching Selma Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Known as a servant leader, Reese devoted most of his life to improving the well-being of the citizens of Selma. He was an unwavering advocate for teachers. As president of the Selma Teachers Association, he fought for black teachers to get maternity leave in the 1960s. With a mission to show teachers the power of their voices, he urged educators to join the Selma suffrage campaign and led a teachers march to the Dallas County Courthouse in January 1965.

Reese was president of the Dallas County Voters League and one of Selma’s “Courageous Eight,” a group of activists who continued to hold rallies to discuss protesting electoral injustices even after an injunction banned marches and rallies. Reese, along with Amelia Boynton-Robinson, Ulysses Blackmon, Ernest Doyle, Marie Foster, James Gildersleeve, Rev. JD Hunter, and Rev. Henry Shannon, was instrumental in bringing members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee to Selma to lead protests against discrimination against voters.

FILE – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., third from right, and his wife Coretta King make the final round of the filing capital of Montgomery, Ala., In this filing photo from March 25, 1965. Thousands of civil rights activists took part in the walk that took place on March 21st in Selma, Ala., Began, calling for voter registration rights for blacks. Rev. DF Reese from Selma is on right. The king’s birthday is celebrated nationwide on Monday, January 21, 2002. (AP Photo / File) APAP

After the 1965 Suffrage Act was passed, the Courageous Eight would continue efforts to desegregate Selma. As one of Selma’s first black councilors, Reese was instrumental in getting the first black men into the city’s police and sheriff departments. While Reese lost his bid for Selma’s mayor in 1984, he later served as campaign manager for James Perkins Jr., who became the city’s first African-American mayor in 2000. Reese had a long career teaching (including his curriculum) a number of Selma stars, including LaTosha Brown, political strategist and co-founder of Black Voters Matter) and later administrator, where he continued to prosper as the principal of Selma High School supervised. In 2015 he retired from the pulpit of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, where he led the ward for 50 years and passed the baton to James Perkins Jr.

Frederick D. Reese and James Perkins

Selma Mayor-elect James Perkins Jr. speaks with his transition team chairman Frederick D. Reese in the chambers of Selma City Council after a press conference. Perkins was elected in 2000 and was Selma’s first black mayor. (Photo credit: Christine Jacobs)ph

FD Reese finished his memoir “Selma’s Self-Sacrifice” in 2017 with the help of the author Kathy M. Walters. That same year, Reese’s grandchildren, Alan and Marvin Jr., established the FD Reese Foundation to honor their grandfather’s legacy in service, education, and civil rights. After Reese’s death in 2018, Walters added a final chapter to the book. Eight months later, Alan and Marvin Jr. had the memoir published.

“He’s the reason you have the first black officer in Selma. The first black sheriff. The first black firefighter. He’s integrated a doctor’s office, ”Alan Reese told in 2019.

Alan and Marvin Reese, Jr.

Alan Reese (left) and Marvin Reese Jr. (right) signed their grandfather’s autobiography, FD Reese, at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. In 2017, they founded the FD Reese Foundation (Photo credit: Shauna Stuart for

While FD Reese’s accomplishments were well known in Selma, Alan and Marvin Reese grew tired of not seeing their grandfather’s name in the history books. However, FD Reese never resented not receiving national recognition. When a large crowd gathered for a ceremony at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in 2013 to promote the renaming of Legrande Street to Dr. Celebrating FD Reese Street, the civil rights activist had a humble reaction.

“I feel like it is a great honor to have a street named after me,” said Reese. “I don’t think I deserve all of this,” reported the Selma Times Journal.

Selma’s first FD Reese day is March 21st.

In February the city council declared unanimously that March 15 would be celebrated as a day in honor of Reese. Station 4 councilor Leisa James led the effort. James Perkins Jr., who was re-elected mayor in November, said he was “hippopotamus happy” and “peacock proud” to sign the proposal, the Selma Times Journal reported.

James says she originally suggested March 15 because it was the first date that came to mind. March 15, 1965 was also an important date in planning the Selma to Montgomery marches, she said in an interview with After further discussion, Reese’s family asked the city to postpone the date to March 21, the day of the first march from Selma to Montgomery. March 21, 1965 was also the date on which Rev. FD Reese assumed his pastoral role as Minister of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.

“We consider Bloody Sunday a day we will never forget. But they could actually achieve their goal by marching from Selma to Montgomery. So this is the day, ”said Alan Reese.

While the official feast day for FD Reese is March 21st, the city will hold two memorial ceremonies for the civil rights giant on March 15th.

“We’re going to make this a great occasion that is overdue,” said James.

On March 15th at 12:00 noon, the city will host a small ceremony at Selma High School where the Reese family council will propose a resolution officially declaring March 21st as FD Reese Day. U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama’s 7th District, including Selma, will also send a tribute. Later during the program, the Reese family will present FD Reese’s first apprenticeship contract with Selma’s school system as a donation to the city. FD Reese began teaching at RB Hudson High School in Selma in 1960, where he taught math and science.

The tribute, says Alan Reese, will highlight the important role educators played in the civil and suffrage movement.

After the presentation at Selma High School, the city will host a grand caravan tribute to Reese that begins in Selma’s Bloch Park. James asks members of the public who wish to join the caravan to arrive at the park by 12:30 pm at the latest. The caravan will leave the park at 12:45 p.m. and stop at 10 locations in the city where the deceased civil rights leader had an impact including the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, the RB Hudson Middle School (formerly high school), the Brown Chapel AME and the Dallas County Courthouse. The caravan ends at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The Superintendent of Selma City Schools, Dr. Avis Wiggins, and Mayor James Perkins are expected to attend the honors. James hopes the caravan will attract large numbers of participants, including motorcycles, auto clubs and buses. She also hopes members of the public, elected officials, clergy, teachers and former educators will attend the events to celebrate Reese’s legacy.

The events will conclude later on Monday evening with a virtual ceremony that will be streamed from 6:00 p.m. on the Selma Town Hall Facebook page

“There’s not enough time in the world to talk about Dr. Reese,” said James, remembering fond memories of the late Dr. FD Reese remembered. Reese, who was her pastor at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, conducted the ceremony at the wedding of her and her husband. He later baptized their daughter.

“He was always a father figure in my life because I was always very vocal when I got up. And he always led me in the right direction. He was one of the reasons I chose politics, ”said James, who is also a former educator. “Many of the children who grew up to be doctors and lawyers have been their pastors. He was her mentor and I just felt overlooked. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be in training. “


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